When turning a yard into a wildlife habitat, you have plenty of aspects to work on. Here are the top five, based on the Backyard Habitat Certification Program focus areas: invasive weeds, native plants, pesticide reduction, stormwater management, and wildlife stewardship.
Weeds aren’t all bad — they’re just plants that are growing where we didn’t intend for them to grow. Invasive weeds, on the other hand, can cause big problems. The weeds on the BHCP list have been identified by local ecologists and botanists as specific risks for environmental and economic damage.
Native plants coevolved with native insects, and other wildlife relies on those insects for food. So, how well a habitat works for all critters depends on the diversity of native plants it offers. Native plants also require less water, once established, than many non-native ornamentals. And they’re adapted to our climate, so they should be able to weather whatever comes.
Pesticides (“cides” include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.) can hurt wildlife as well as pets and people. In our practice, we don’t use synthetic chemicals at all. And we heartily agree with the BHCP program’s use of Metro’s Grow Smart, Grow Safe guide to the least hazardous products and practices for a productive, safe and healthy yard.
Water management can pose serious challenges on urban properties. Runoff from impervious surfaces like streets and driveways not only collects pollutants, it can cause damage on your property, or your neighbors’. Managing stormwater in your yard might include allowing water to soak into the ground, helping to filter water and decrease or eliminate runoff from your property (and “run-on” to your neighbors’, too!). As the lead contractor for the Stormwater Challenge program for the past two seasons, we have identified the best of the best practices to use in our clients’ yards.
Birds. Frogs. Snakes. Bats. You might not personally want to hang out up close and personally with all the creatures that will arrive in your beautiful backyard habitat. But they mostly will keep to themselves, and give you just enough heads-up that they’re there that you can be proud of the healthy and safe place you’ve created for them to live.
For more information, see Turn your yard into a wildlife habitat.